Prague – An Iranian campaign against independent media that resulted in the recent arrests of more than a dozen journalists in Tehran has reached journalists outside the country, including as many as 15 Radio Farda journalists who have been targeted with sophisticated online attacks.
Like their counterparts at the BBC and other international media, at least three Radio Farda journalists have been the subject of fake Facebook profiles and blogs that post false and even scandalous information with the aim of discrediting them. Radio Farda’s Facebook page, which has more than 300,000 fans, has also been hacked.
“These attacks against our Radio Farda journalists are unlawful and show the lengths to which the Iranian regime will go to prevent a free and independent press,” said Kevin Klose, acting RFE/RL president. “We are undeterred as they continue their attempts to intimidate our journalists, and we will continue to report the news.”
Radio Farda journalists have also suffered synchronized attacks by Trojan horse viruses, which come cloaked as legitimate email correspondence or attachments that, when opened, can mine the user’s computer for contacts, passwords, and other sensitive data. In some cases hackers have used the data to pose as Radio Farda contacts and attempt to communicate with radio employees.
“It’s ridiculous,” said Radio Farda Editor-in-Chief Niusha Boghrati. “We believe this is the work of Iranian security agents. Although we can’t prove it, it is in line with their goal of undermining Radio Farda. And of course it won’t work.”
The cyber attacks expand the tactics the regime has deployed against Radio Farda in the past and appear to be part of an official effort to engineer Iran’s information landscape in advance of presidential elections this June. Last spring, RFE/RL documented at least 20 attempts by authorities to intimidate Radio Farda journalists through interrogations and threats against family members in Iran. Radio Farda broadcasts are frequently jammed, and its website is officially blocked.
About Radio Farda
Despite jamming and severe restrictions on access, nearly 3 million Iranians listen to RFE/RL’s Radio Farda or visit the network’s website every week. Radio Farda also maintains an active presence on social media.
RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, and television — reach influential audiences in 21 countries, including Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the republics of Central Asia. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
Media inquiries in the U.S. can be made to Karisue Wyson in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org or +1.202.457.6917. In Europe, contact Joanna Levison in Prague at email@example.com or +420.602.612.705.